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Union concerned about Oakville Ford plant's future after report suggests automaker may scrap Edge SUV

A U.S. automotive consultant says Ford is planning to stop making the Edge crossover utility vehicle, which raises questions about the future of the Oakville, Ont., assembly plant that builds it.

Oakville plant has been in operation since 1953 and currently employs more than 4,000 people

A worker looks at the motor of a Ford Edge line at the Ford Assembly Plant in Oakville, Ont., in 2015. The company may be planning on phasing out the Edge, a decision that could leave the Oakville plant with nothing to build. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

A U.S. automotive consultant says Ford is planning to stop making the Edge crossover utility vehicle, which raises questions about the future of the Oakville, Ont., assembly plant that builds it.

Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, says Ford is in the process of changing its mix of models, and part of that process has led to them scrapping the Edge program. 

The news was first reported by Automotive News Canada.

"We are expecting the current Edge to be extended a short time to fill the gap, and then Ford to move on to another product," Fiorani said in an interview with CBC News.

That could be bad news for the company's assembly plant, which currently employs 4,200 people. It has been in operation since 1953, and plant currently has enough work to keep it busy through the Edge's current production cycle. But if the Edge goes away, so could the work.

"We have no intel saying they are planning any product in Oakville as of yet," Fiorani said.

Ford Canada poured cold water on the report, telling CBC News that the "Edge and the five-passenger midsize SUV segment remain a critical part of Ford's winning portfolio."

"We have no plans to exit the segment," spokesperson Lauren More said.

In 2018, Fiorani correctly predicted that General Motors would halt its current production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., which came to pass last year.

Union negotiations

The Fiorani report comes as the labour agreement between Ford and Unifor, its largest Canadian union, is set to expire. Negotiations for a new four-year pact are scheduled to begin in September.

"This is the time when Ford would tell the union that it plans to close within the next contract four-year period," Fiorani said.

In an interview with CBC News, Unifor leader Jerry Dias said that he was "concerned" with the report, but he described it as "premature."

"Final decisions have not been made yet," he said. "They sell 200,000 of these a year. It would have to be replaced with something, if in fact it goes away at all."

Union contracts with the Big Three automakers expire this year. The union's strategy has historically been to focus on negotiations with one automaker, and then take that deal to the other two for a framework.

"The Ford Oakville plant was already going to be the focus of our contract negotiations this fall with Ford so what this did was certainly put a spotlight on it for good reason," Dias said.

"We're going to find a solution."

Premier weighs in

Speaking to reporters at his daily COVID-19 briefing, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government is "concerned" with the report and has been in touch with the automaker and the union.

"When any line in the automotive  sector is discontinued or moving down south, it concerns us."

In addition to the Edge, the Ford plant in Oakville also makes the Lincoln Nautilus, which was already slated to be phased out in 2023.

Last year, Ford ended production of the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT, which were both assembled at the Oakville plant.

With files from the CBC's Jasmin Seputis

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